NRL tightens concussion rules

e) The Australian Rugby League Commission has approved changes to the NRL concussion rules to clarify the circumstances under which players must be removed from the field – and kept off.

NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said the NRL was determined to make changes where necessary to improve player welfare.

He said the new rules will help doctors determine what action should be taken when a player suffers a head injury.

And he revealed that the NRL has fined Parramatta Eels A$20,000 ($10,000 suspended) for its handling of three concussion incidents, including one involving Nathan Peats. The fine relates to the breakdown in procedures to ensure Peats was assessed and treated properly. Following the incidents, the club has already moved to step up its compliance with the concussion rules.

No action will be taken in relation to an incident involving South Sydney’s Adam Reynolds, despite his return to the field after apparently being dazed, because his return followed a clinical assessment by the club’s doctor based on the facts before him.

Greenberg said the new rules, which come into force this weekend, will help doctors determine what action should be taken when a player suffers a head injury.

He said that under the new rules some of the players who returned to the field after clinical assessment in the first five rounds would have been prohibited from returning to play.

The rules have been tightened – and made more prescriptive – to make it easier for doctors to make what can be a difficult clinical diagnosis. In broad terms, the new rules stipulate that players must not return to the field if they exhibit any of the following signs:

a) Loss of consciousness;

b) Falling to the ground without taking protective action;

c) Seizure;

d) Memory impairment;

e) Balance disturbance (ataxia).

“Under the strengthened rules, if a player falls to the ground without taking protective action or loses consciousness they are not to return to the field,” said Greenberg.

“There will be no need to undergo further assessments and tests – the player is to sit out the rest of the match.

“This will take the pressure off club doctors because, if players exhibit these signs, it is compulsory that they are removed from the field and do not return.”

The changes were developed by the NRL’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Paul Bloomfield, and the NRL claims they are consistent with best practice nationally and internationally. The new rules are supported by NRL club doctors.

They also claim the support of the Rugby League Players Association, which said player welfare should be the top priority of everyone in Rugby League.

RLPA CEO, David Garnsey said: “There can be no half measures when dealing with the safety of players and we want all players to be assessed and treated properly if they suffer a head knock.

“These changes will make it easier for club doctors to make a call and should improve consistency around the concussion procedures.”